Article abstract

Nature Materials 8, 507 - 511 (2009)
Published online: 17 May 2009 | doi:10.1038/nmat2446

Subject Category: Polymers

Templated formation of giant polymer vesicles with controlled size distributions

Jonathan R. Howse1, Richard A. L. Jones2, Giuseppe Battaglia3, Robert E. Ducker4,5, Graham J. Leggett4 & Anthony J. Ryan4

Unilamellar polymer vesicles are formed when a block copolymer self-assembles to form a single bilayer structure, with a hydrophobic core and hydrophilic surfaces, and the resulting membrane folds over and rearranges by connecting its edges to enclose a space. The physics of self-assembly tightly specifies the wall thickness of the resulting vesicle, but, both for polymer vesicles and phospholipids, no mechanism strongly selects for the overall size, so the size distribution of vesicles tends to be very polydisperse. We report a method for the production of controlled size distributions of micrometre-sized (that is, giant) vesicles combining the 'top-down' control of micrometre-sized features (vesicle diameter) by photolithography and dewetting with the 'bottom-up' control of nanometre-sized features (membrane thickness) by molecular self-assembly. It enables the spontaneous creation of unilamellar vesicles with a narrow size distribution that could find applications in drug and gene delivery, nano- and micro-reactors, substrates for macromolecular crystallography and model systems for studies of membrane function.

  1. Department of Chemical and Process Engineering, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S1 3JF, UK
  2. Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S3 7RH, UK
  3. Department of Engineering Materials, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S3 7HQ, UK
  4. Department of Chemistry, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S3 7HF, UK
  5. Current address: Centre for Biologically Inspired Materials & Material Systems, Department of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina 27708, USA

Correspondence to: Jonathan R. Howse1 e-mail:


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